Country Listing

North Korea Table of Contents

North Korea

Koreans Living Overseas

Large-scale emigration from Korea began around 1904 and continued until the end of World War II. During the Japanese colonial occupation (1910-45), many Koreans emigrated to Manchuria (China's three northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning), other parts of China, the Soviet Union, Hawaii, and the continental United States. People from Korea's northern provinces went mainly to Manchuria, China, and Siberia; many from the southern provinces went to Japan. Most émigrés left for economic reasons because employment opportunities were scarce; many Korean farmers had lost their land after the Japanese colonial government introduced a system of private land tenure, imposed higher land taxes, and promoted the growth of an absentee landlord class charging exorbitant rents.

In the 1980s, more than 4 million ethnic Koreans lived outside the peninsula. The largest group, about 1.7 million people, lived in China; most had assumed Chinese citizenship. Approximately 1 million Koreans, almost exclusively from South Korea, lived in North America. About 389,000 ethnic Koreans resided in the former Soviet Union. One observer noted that Koreans have been so successful in running collective farms in Soviet Central Asia that being Korean is often associated by other citizens there with being rich, and as a result there is growing antagonism against Koreans. Smaller groups of Koreans are found in Central America and South America (85,000), the Middle East (62,000), Europe (40,000), Asia (27,000), and Africa (25,000).

Many of Japan's approximately 680,000 Koreans have belowaverage standards of living. This situation is partly because of discrimination by the Japanese. Many resident Koreans, loyal to North Korea, remain separate from, and often hostile to, the Japanese social mainstream. The pro-North Korean Choch'ongryn (General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, known as Ch sen s ren or Ch s ren in Japanese) (see Glossary) initially was more successful than the pro-South Korean Mindan (Association for Korean Residents in Japan) in attracting adherents among residents in Japan.

Between 1959 and 1982, Choch'ongryn encouraged the repatriation of Korean residents in Japan to North Korea. More than 93,000 Koreans left Japan, the majority (80,000 persons) in 1960 and 1961. Thereafter, the number of repatriates declined, apparently because of reports of hardships suffered by their compatriots. Approximately 6,637 Japanese wives accompanied their husbands to North Korea, of whom about 1,828 retained Japanese citizenship in the early 1990s. P'yongyang had originally promised that the wives could return home every two or three years to visit their relatives. In fact, however, they are not allowed to do so, and few have had contact with their families in Japan. In normalization talks between North Korean and Japanese officials in the early 1990s, the latter urged unsuccessfully that the wives be allowed to make home visits.

Data as of June 1993